• Tanja Dall
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
For some time inter-occupational cooperation concerning citizens with social and/or medical barriers regarding employment has been a political focus area. Particularly cooperation between caseworkers, municipal medical consultants and medical specialists in the health sector has been a subject of attention. Most recently the medical consultants’ role in the job centres’ assessment of citizens’ eligibility to receive different income benefits has been criticised. The criticism has led to repeated clarifications of the guidelines for the medical consultants’ function in job centres. This recurring issue reflects a decade long debate which currently revolves around the need to formally legislate on their role.

A recent study exploring the pathways to disability pension in four Danish municipalities has, however, identified a series of challenges in the inter-occupational cooperation between caseworkers, medical consultants and attending doctors, ranging beyond both the medical consultants and the question of guidelines (Caswell et al. 2012). According to the caseworkers, conflicts arise when attending doctors counteract their assessments, and according to the doctors, when the caseworkers neglect to react on the provided information. Additionally, the way medical knowledge is processed and applied in the job centres is problematised, e.g. when medical assessments, in the caseworkers’ experience, take precedence over their professional assessments. Thus, Caswell et al.’s study indicates that the inter-occupational challenges concerns issues beyond guidelines and legislation. The discrepancy between these findings in combination with the political focus forms the basis for the present study.

The focus of this study will be to explore the potential of the sociology of professions for explaining above-mentioned inter-occupational challenges. Using the qualitative data from Caswell et al.’s study, the empirical point of departure is eight focus group interviews with caseworkers working with cash benefit recipients (four interviews) and sickness benefit recipients (four interviews) across four municipalities, and one focus group interview with medical consultants and attending doctors (general practitioners). The retrieved data will form the basis for the analysis of identified challenges from both a structural functionalist, a system-based interactionistic and a synthesizing perspective of the theory of professions. The conclusion is that the sociology of professions offers explanations across societal, inter-occupational and organisational levels. Furthermore, the study identifies limitations pertaining to the focus on professions and occupations. By treating the caseworkers, medical consultants and attending doctors as homogeneous professional or occupational groups, the sociology of professions neglect the significant intra-occupational (and –professional) differences between especially caseworkers and medical consultants. Moreover, the analyses suggest that parts of the inter-occupational cooperation are both shaped and negotiated in everyday interactions. The sociology of professions has limited potential in explaining these micro-level issues.

In closing, a call is made for further exploration of the inter-occupational cooperation in practise, as a basis for strengthening the inter-occupational cooperation in relation to citizens with complex social and medical problems.
Publication dateSept 2012
Number of pages99
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet, Kandidatuddannelsen i Socialt Arbejde
ID: 66739504